All I see when I examine Pakistani commentary on Faisal Shahzad’s failed attempt to bomb Times Square are self conscious-denials that he represents Pakistani-Americans and feeble attempts to distance the would-be bomber from his birthplace. Pakistanis call him an ‘embarrassment.’ Pakistani-Americans fear they will face a backlash similar to what they experienced after September 11. No doubt, these are valid feelings and concerns.
But what I feel is, first, pity for a man who had everything to live for and threw it away to stand up for a warped ideology, and second, overwhelming horror at the thought of what the next generation will grow up believing.
The question I’d like to ask is: What about his children? For every ‘terror suspect’ who is either locked up in military custody, missing or dead, there exists a vast family network who must cope with the choices he made.
And, as is the case with most disasters, children bear the brunt of the aftermath.
Think about it. Forever labeled ‘the children of a terrorist,’ what hope do Shahzad’s kids have of growing up to be normal, well-adjusted individuals? What of Aafia Siddiqui’s children, who survived a macabre journey through Afghanistan only to return to live with an aunt who believes a global conspiracy targeted their mother?
At best, these children will become shadows, so intent to shield themselves from the public eye that they will all but disappear. At worst, they will draw strength from the primeval ties that bind parent and child and become extremists themselves. And they will be more deadly than those that came before them.
This is the reality we must teach ourselves to fear most. We must engage in a global effort to reach out to still-innocent minds and address their questions about religion, race and a young Pakistani’s place in the world. If we don’t, we are sure to face dire consequences.
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